By TIM REYNOLDS
The NBA draft lottery was delayed three months. The Minnesota Timberwolves are certainly feeling like the wait was worthwhile.
The Timberwolves won the lottery Thursday night, giving them the No. 1 pick. The lottery was conducted virtually because of the pandemic, with NBA officials doing the actual draw in Secaucus, New Jersey.
Golden State holds the No. 2 pick, Charlotte got the No. 3 pick and Chicago will pick fourth. The Hornets and Bulls both bucked some odds to move into the upper echelon.
“We know with the No. 1 pick we have the opportunity to draft an impact player who could immediately complement our young, strong core,” Timberwolves President Gersson Rosas said.
Chicago had a 32% chance of moving into the top four spots, Charlotte about a 26% chance. They leapfrogged four teams that had better top-four odds — Cleveland, Atlanta, Detroit and New York.
“I’m pretty sure whoever we get, it’s going to be exciting,” Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham said.
The draft, originally scheduled for June, is set for Oct. 16. But nobody knows yet when the new draft picks will make their NBA debuts, since the start of the 2020-21 season is not yet determined.
The NBA had been hoping for a Dec. 1 start to the 2020-21 season, though Commissioner Adam Silver said on the ESPN telecast of that draft lottery that date now “is feeling a little bit early to me.”
Without fans at games, a major revenue stream is obviously lost for the league and its teams. There have been talks about starting next season with one or multiple bubbles, like the one where the league is playing now at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, but the obvious preference is to have fans returning to games.
“Our No. 1 goal is to get fans back in our arenas,” Silver said on the telecast. “My sense is, in working with the players association, if we could push back even a little longer and increase the likelihood of having fans in arenas, that’s what we would be targeting.”
The Timberwolves were 19-45 this season, marking the 14th time in 15 years that they failed to make the playoffs and finished with a losing record. And a month ago, Glen Taylor — who has owned the franchise since 1994 — said he “will entertain” offers for the Timberwolves WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx.
It’ll be Minnesota’s first time holding the No. 1 pick since 2015, when it took Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Warriors have another asset — either to trade or perhaps keep — now as they look toward next season. The Warriors went from five-time defending Western Conference champions to an NBA-worst 15-50 this season, having two-time MVP Stephen Curry for only five games largely because of injury and not having Klay Thompson at any point while he recovered from the ACL tear he suffered in the last game of the 2019 NBA Finals.
“I have no idea what the value is of that pick, how much people covet it and I don’t think I’ll know that anytime soon,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said. “But usually the No. 2 pick is pretty good. So I think we’ll be happy what whatever options, whatever route we take.”
Unlike a year ago, when Zion Williamson was clearly going to be the first selection, there is no consensus about the No. 1 pick. Top candidates include Georgia’s Anthony Edwards, Memphis’ James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball — the brother of New Orleans guard Lonzo Ball.
Edwards, a 6-foot-5 guard, averaged 19.1 points in 32 games for Georgia in his lone college season. Wiseman, a 7-foot-1 center, played in only three games for Memphis and averaged 19.7 points before giving up what had been a lengthy fight with the NCAA over his eligibility. Ball, a 6-foot-7 guard, averaged 17 points in 12 games while playing in Australia’s top pro league this past season.
Cleveland got the fifth pick, followed by Atlanta, Detroit, New York, Washington, Phoenix, San Antonio, Sacramento and New Orleans at No. 13.
Memphis, which had 200-1 odds of winning the No. 1 pick and was 97.6% certain of finishing 14th, ended up in exactly that spot — a pick that will now be conveyed to Boston as part of a trade that happened in 2015. It means the Celtics could have three first-round picks on draft night, barring any moves by Boston beforehand.
The rest of the first-round order, starting with the No. 15 pick and going to No. 30, as of now is: Orlando, Portland, Minnesota, Dallas, Brooklyn, Miami, Philadelphia, Denver, Utah, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Boston, New York, the Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto and Boston.